At least 45 people have died after heavy rains in South Africa’s eastern coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal flooded settlements, tore apart homes, swept away roads and displaced dozens, officials said on Tuesday. In a statement, the provincial government confirmed the toll and warned that heavy rain would continue until evening in the coastal areas.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) officials say disaster management teams are evacuating people in areas where mudslides have occurred and buildings have collapsed. Home after home washed away, and several roads collapsed, hampering transportation and rescue efforts. As muddy water gushed across streets, people were seen carrying some salvaged possessions to safe places.
The COGTA statement said the South African National Defence Force would provide aerial support where necessary. As a result of the rains in KwaZulu-Natal, a dam was flooded beyond capacity, rendering it impossible for power utility Eskom to run a hydroelectric generator, Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter said in an online briefing.
More than 2,000 houses and 4,000 shacks have been damaged, provincial premier Sihle Zikala told journalists in a briefing broadcast live on television. Rescue operations, aided by the military, are underway to evacuate people trapped in affected areas, the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance said. Those trapped include teachers and students at a Durban secondary school, it said.
A prior report by the Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda told reporters that Durban’s power stations had been flooded as well as water supplies had been disrupted, adding that graveyards had not escaped the damage as well. A local humanitarian agency, Gift of the Givers, said in a statement: “The need of the hour is huge.” It said transport infrastructure had suffered massive damage and some people were trapped beneath collapsed walls. The country’s rail service PRASA said landslips and rubble on the tracks had forced it to suspend all train services in the province.
Transnet, the largest logistics company in South Africa, has suspended operations at its ports in Durban as a result of the torrential rains that have damaged a road and made access difficult. There is increasing evidence that climate change is causing floods and droughts to take a worsening course along the Eastern coastline. South African Weather Service declines to attribute the current rainfall to climate change, but warns that such events may become more frequent.